Agency in American Minstrelsy and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
In the 19th century, your race blatantly defined you. Whether you had come to be "free" out of slavery, as an African American or told you were "free" as a Native American, nothing defined you most to Western society than the color of your skin. This period was the calm before the storm of industrialism that would boom in the twentieth century. For African Americans it was a time of extreme tension and discrimination. Acts of hate were displayed to non-whites in the country. Western culture was being imposed on the Native Americans. The culture of both Native Americans and African Americans was absorbed and controlled by White Americans through American Minstrelsy and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Shows. However, even without the power outside themselves, African Americans and Native Americans found agency through these shows.
To begin with, there was propaganda spread throughout the country. African Americans were portrayed as different, laughable characters to take away from their human characteristics, and make them less relatable. Whites painted blacks as beastly and incapable of human emotion and empathy. Despite these obvious and cruel acts of hate there was another side to the relationship between whites and blacks. White people had a fascination with black culture, hated or not and this interest in seeing black culture from whites created a dynamic and twisted relationship. "Almost everything that occurs in African-American performance, on stage and in life, is somehow predicated upon and circumscribed by the minstrel trope- the love/hate contestation of the white-black exchange…" (Gottschild, 6). It becomes obvious the twisted relationship when Gottdchild later describes one of Rice's most famous acts called the "Jump Jim Crow" based off Rice's observation of a handicap black man dancing for money.
Although there is a cruel nature of whites finding this "authentic" black...
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